Coffee from Hell

Novelist, philosopher, essayist and semiotician Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco drinking coffee in NYC

weighs in on the perils of drinking both American coffee…and truly bad coffee:

     “American coffee can be a pale solution served at a temperature of 100 degrees centigrade in plastic thermos cups,

usually obligatory in railroad stations for purposes of genocide,

whereas coffee made with an American percolator, such as you find in private houses or in humble luncheonettes,

served with eggs and bacon, is delicious, fragrant, goes down like pure spring water, and afterwards causes severe palpitations,

because one cup contains more caffeine than four espressos.


     Swill-coffee is something apart.

It is usually made from rotten barley, dead men’s bones,

plus a few genuine coffee beans fished out of the garbage bins of a Celtic dispensary.

Iggy Pop and Tom Waits throwing caution to the winds as they indulge in multiple vices

It is easily recognized by its unmistakable odor of feet marinated in dishwater. It is served in prisons, reform schools, sleeping cars, and luxury hotels.”

Spokane, Washington, 1953


Eco’s words make me grin. But they also make me feel curiously unbalanced. Almost unsteady….I think I need a cup of coffee.  But….fuck….it seems to be tilting…




P.S. Some theologists posit that to be without sin…is to be perfect.  And if perfection is more than a spiritual pipe-dream, the perfect cup of coffee would be:

“Noir comme le diable Chaud comme l’enfer Pur comme un ange Doux comme l’amour.” (Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand)

“Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love.”

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